Travel

Providing travel destination tips

Brexit 

Hi all,

We all have woken up with the sad news that the British public has voted to leave the European Union. We have to respect the public’s vote even if we disagree with it and trust that the UK has a prosperous future ahead !

Now, I am a European citizen and have been living in the UK, London for the last 8 years ! I know that I will not be told to leave London or get outed from the UK, and I trust there will be a plan to make me feel safe and welcomed in this country.

 It will all take time to get in place and of course economically it will be a tough time for the UK but if we can, as Europeans living in the UK and being granted the right to stay we want to help in shaping the UKs future ! Whether it is within or out of the European Union.

In these last year I have been able to buy and live in a beautiful flat, I have been given work, paid my taxes, contributed to the economy and have earned the trust of my employers which enables me to build my reputation and I am positive that the good work and relationships will continue. 


So I understand frustrations, but we need to put ourselves in the British people’s shoes and understand that there are things which do not work for them by being part of the European Union and that’s fine, we need to accept it, because we live here 🙂 we have been given the privilege to excel and have work and meet amazing people with whom we have built relationships and this will remain ! We just need to all make sure, Europeans but also British that power hungry politicians do not impose their agendas to move forward but listen to what the people want and focus on unity, respect and peace.

So yes, I am very sad about the UK leaving the EU but everything happens for a reason and I am positive that as a resident since the last 8 years I will still be welcomed to remain here, and if not then I will leave with a great experience of having lived in an amazing country.

Thank you Britain for the fantastic years and hopefully there will be more to come !

Sincerely yours,

Nadege

Be-a-Chameleon

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Mentoring a young professional

About a year ago I was made aware by a friend of mine that a charity was looking for Mentors.

I had never been a Mentor before and was interested in learning more about what the charity was doing and how I could be of help. 2nd Chance (2ndchanceuk.org) is a charity that offers young people who haven´t had had the chance to study or succeed in life, and between the ages of 18 and 24 to get back up and start their career. The aim of the Mentoring was to help a young person succeed in the workplace but also keep their job. I was sold and couldn´t wait to start my journey.

I met with my mentee, a very interetsing young lady who was very different from me, at first I thought that it was a funny match as I am more of a reserved person, quiet, observing and my mentee was louder, extraverted and active. But I thought, ok if they have matched us it´s that there is a reason. So we met the first time within the premises of 2nd Chance and were provided; as Mentor; with a program, support sheet, to help us create a bond with our mentee.

After the offcial meet i scheduled another meet with my mentee, we went a bit back and forth with it, lack of time on her side, or maybe was it lack of interest? I didn´t know at the time 🙂 After a few back and forth we finally met and i decided to listen to what she had to say and just be there for her, what was she expecting from me, what did she need and what did she want to take out of the mentorship.

What came out was that she didn´t want a mentor, she didn´t want someone who would kind of control or make sure she does the right thing, actually she said she felt pushed to have a mentor. So I accepted her perspective and we started talking about her life, her and what her aspirations were and how she could achieve her goals.

After that session we met again and again and again, the moral of the story though is that she needed to be heard, she needed to get her private life sorted, have someone to hear her, give her advice, someone with positive outlooks, there for her when she needed and today I can say that I am extremely proud of what she has achieved. She has her life sorted, or at least what can be sorted out, she has a job since 6 months which she has kept and she is very inspiring !

She is very strong, and she has shown me resilience, shown me that if you want you can do it, she was flexible, she listened and most of all, she made it ! I hope she keeps being so positive and so good at what she does, she opened my eyes and taught me that when there is a will there is a way, and that even if you had a bad start in life, you can still make it when surrounded and supported by the right people !

I enjoyed the Mentoring so much that I signed up for another year and another mentee !

I would recommend this journey, if you are based in London, do check 2nd Chance out, you could make a difference and learn a lot about yourself but also learn from these young people.

I am very grateful to them.

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Travel, a way to reconnect with yourself

After a long wait, I have finally found the time to travel back to South East Asia and Australia to visit friends and family. I really missed traveling, that said when one works it is not always easy to take time out and venture on such a long trip, but this year was about reconnecting, so Singapore and Australia here I come.

On my way to Australia I stopped for a few days in Singapore. I used to live there for about a year and a half 8 years ago, and my goodness does the city change. It is so fascinating when you come back to identify the changes, observe the people and walk through the streets you used to walk through with fresh eyes and new perspectives.

I wasn´t in Singapore for long so I could not visit everyone but one thing which is always fantastic for me and so close to my heart is to meet up with my great local friends that always take time out to spend time with me and continue teaching me about Singaporean culture. I cannot thank them enough for this, and to be honest it is such a treat and honour, I really hope some of you have such great friends that never cease to teach you about their culture !

My Singapore stop was thus reconnecting with friends, with my previous life here and to be honest I really felt like a Singaporean, there is something about having lived in a city that makes you a part of it, such a wonderful feeling. My two days in Singapore were done and I was now flying to Sydney where my sister was waiting for me.

I stayed in Sydney and surroundings for about two weeks and a half, and in these two weeks and a half I ventured out every day with my camera under my arm to discover new areas, new sites and new perspectives. I had been in Australia in 1999 and in 2009 and everytime I go back i always feel this positive energy from nature and being so close to the ocean. Very invigorating and resourcing. This time around I was privileged to be invited in my sister´s boyfriend family´s house, i got to spend two days in an Australian home and it was amazing. I learned more about the culture, about the family dynamics but also how people perceive life and that again provided me with new perspectives and ways of looking at life and the world which is very important for my learning but also teaching in the intercultural field.

After my two weeks and a half away i felt re-energised, revitalized and full of new ideas which I hope I can share with my clients, colleagues, friends and family.

The moral of this story is that traveling does open up our minds more and even if you have lived or visited a place before, you always find and discover something new when you come back and your roots and belonging to that one culture you left a few years back continues to grow when you come back and resync with your past experiences.

PS.: If you like the pictures you see they are available on: http://chameleonpictures.zenfolio.com/  – you can find more pictures of other destinations under all photographs: http://chameleonpictures.zenfolio.com/f583482853

And if you need any support as an expatriate, repatriate or global nomad, feel free to contact us: http://www.be-a-chameleon.com, thank you

 

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Reconnecting with a culture you have left

I came back to Madrid after about 8 years. I had spent the best year of my life there studying for a master and making great friends from Latin America which I am visiting on this journey !

I have to say after one day in Madrid I found my inner madrilene again and walked around Madrid on auto pilot remembering the good days and nights that I have had in this amazing city !!

Nothing has really changed except for some places I used to go that closed, but just a minority of them !!

When we have been an expat in a country we always take a part of that country s culture with us ! And I realized it even more this time ! It just took me half a day to become madrilene again !!

Please share if you have had similar experiences !!!

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Leaving your country to live abroad – provided by our guest blogger Ozchameleon

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More than three years ago I decided to leave Europe to go and have a career change by studying a Master degree in Australia! The initial plan was to study for a year and return to Europe after. As you can imagine, like many foreigners here, I fell in love with that country, the nature, the laid back environment (not always easy but learnt a lot) and the life I created for myself!

One has to admit, that my personal journey has not always been an easy one but it has enriched me with experience, resilience and many funny stories to tell!

Before the start of my journey, whilst still in Europe, I was quite organised for a change as this time, I read about the country I was going to (Australia), made research to find out more about the culture etc. This was important for me as I did travel a lot and loved discovering new places and cultures but this time, I knew I was going to live there for a while and was very curious of this foreign land on the other side of the world, Down Under!

As an anecdote, what stuck around until now was the interesting fact a document said about Aussies: apparently, Australians often make jokes about their friends and one should not get offended if they do it to you! To be honest, this is true! One should not take one´s self too seriously as life is beautiful and simple!

Adapting to the culture – Australian Lifestyle

My first intercultural shock was the Aussie accent! Being used to the American and British one, I was just having difficulties understanding them especially when they used slang! Since, I´ve adapted myself and find it shocking when going back to England as I´m not used to hearing that accent anymore.

The other shock as a French individual was the fashion in Australia! It is an easygoing country and people live a simple and practical life but ´oh God´, the French fashion police would stop them then and now me if they saw us/me that way… To draw the picture, being a city near the beach and being quite relaxed compared to European cities, you see men in suits wearing flip-flops or like they say here ´thongs´, and business women in a smart dress wearing sneakers!!! Let me tell you that now I don´t care anymore what people think as I discovered the comfort of wearing these shoes to go to work instead of those beautiful but now painful heels that get caught in the holes in the street or on escalators when going to take the train or in a shopping centre!

Some French friends of mine can´t believe I´m actually doing that! How could I? As I tell them… power of adaptation 😉

Friendships in Australia

So I arrived in Australia and apart from the little shocks you cannot find in books, I decided to follow the lifestyle and move into a flatshare. It was an amazing experience as I met great people and managed to have a circle of friends, which since have evolved but this is life.

As such, I found the Australian culture in terms of friendship quite similar to the Americans. It is quite easy to speak to some of them but it takes a while until it actually becomes a friendship. Not knowing this, you could easily be deceived thinking you’ve established a great friendship but then at the end, you realise it took you actually two years to find out more about the individual who then starts to introduce you to their closer circle of friends and family. I must admit that the people I have encountered are in general very independent and live their life as they feel and keep it simple, which is a good balance and a cultural shock when you are not used to that but more to closer friendships.

To summarise, in order to adapt, I simply absorbed what I read, observed the human interaction in different settings to get my own understanding, analysed and replicated what felt aligned with my own self. It worked perfectly well and this is a process my family and I have gone through for as long as I have lived, which makes it pretty integrated and unconscious by now.

Other Culture shock  – at a funeral

A member of my Australian partner family unfortunately died unexpectedly. It was quite a tough experience for him in these particular circumstances.

The funeral was quickly organised and arranged by his aunts through a funeral service (all funerals are organised through here). The ceremony and cremation were done on that particular funeral home premises.

After the service, the shocking part of the story was that it was suggested by a member to go with who desired to an RSL Club (Returned and Services League); which is a place where you have a pub, a sitting area, some TVs to watch sports and a gaming room (casino and bingo room).

Coming from Europe where you usually go to church, then to a state or church cemetery and then go to a family members house or a restaurant for lunch, it was a shock to me! We did talk after the lunch with my partner and I told him about my perspective and what had shocked me. He seemed not to be that shocked as it was usual to do it the way it was done. He appreciated my concerns and did realise that indeed, different cultures and different families here in Australia did it differently but he realised that the family values and expression of emotions was quite different for him and most Australians.

For more information on any of the stories or any comments you would like to make about a similar or different experience, please feel free to leave a message J

Enjoy!

Yours,  Ozchameleon

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Merry Christmas !!!

Dear all,

We would like to wish you and your families a merry Christmas and all the best for 2013 !!! Good health, love, friendship and success in everything you do !!!

Your be-a-chameleon team !

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Visiting Myanmar – Day 3 Bagan

After a good night sleep and breakfast at 8:30 we headed to visit two more Pagodas (or Payas in local language) dating from the 11 th Century which had still intact paintings.
After visiting the payas we went to have a look at local paintings by local artists in old Bagan. At 12.00 we went for lunch and had again a choice of beef, porc, fish or chicken with rice and curry which I have to admit is delicious ! The curry is very mild and the rice melts in your mouth !
We had a little break after lunch which enabled me to gather a few cultural tips which you can find hereunder:

– Burmese smoke cigarettes, cigars but most of all they chew bettle leaves or roots which for certain people is considered as a drug ! Chewing bettle leaves or roots has the consequence of giving them a red mouth and you will see many people with very bad mouth hygiene, that is mainly due to the effects of the bettle leaves. Just to prove that bettle leaves, nuts or roots are very popular and a part of the culture, a bettle vendor can make up to USD 200 per day ! Which could be a week’s salary for a normal burmese.

– To signal that you are here just lift your hand up, one doesn´t need to speak, shout or wave, lifting the hand up is enough for people to notice you.

– To say to someone to come to you, use your hand, palm facing down and making a movement towards you.

– Do not point your feet at people, it is considered an insult

– If you need to physically approach someone, avoid touching them by the wait, hips or head.

After our little break we continued our tour of the pagodas and encountered a lot of little vendors.

A few tips when dealing with vendors:

– Say hello, stay friendly and thank them for showing you their goods. Just politely say that you are not interested and continue walking without paying attention to them. After a while they will leave you alone. The key here is to stay polite and calm !

We finished the day watching the sunset and having dinner.

Culture facts:

– Fish is very expensive for local people so they seldom have fish at home.

– Travelling is also very expensive so unless they have a motorbike what they will do is spend their holidays in their village but celebrating and visiting festivals nearby.

– Wild berries are collected in the woods and dried by the farmers who collected them, The farmers then sell them to tradesmen who sell these to Chinese. The chinese used these wild berries for traditional Chinese medicine (male impotence to be more specific). Chinese business men make a lot of money out of these whereas local farmers earn peanuts.

– Vegetables and fruits are not exported because they are not to international standards which is a pity because Burmese mangoes are delicious !

– Raw materials include, teak wood, cotton, peanuts, rice, fish, vegetables and fruits.

– Having a telephone is very expensive, a mobile even more, for example to call for 10 minutes internationally it costs 10USD ! Internet however can be accessed in hotels or certain restaurants but the connection is very slow.

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Visiting Myanmar, Day 2 – Bagan

After waking up at 4:30 in the morning to take our plane from Yangon to Bagan, we headed to the domestic terminal of Yangon.
It is quite interesting to see that your luggage is being taken care of by the airline carriers that bring your luggage to the check-in counter, put a sticker on it, give you your boarding pass and that s it, you go to the gate ! We had to go through security but unlike in Europe we could bring liquids that were bigger than 100ml. The waiting room was small, we had a coffee, enjoyed our packed breakfast and observed how the people waited patiently.

When it was time to board, we saw that one guy walked around the room with a panel giving details of the flight number and destination. We boarded a bus (which had the doors open, so one should watch out not to fall off on the way to the plane !

The plane was small and seating was first come first served so you can imagine the rush ! In the end we found a good spot and were off for 1h15 minutes flight to Bagan.

The Bagan area belongs to the  UNESCO world heritage.

We reached Bagan at 8 am, our guide was waiting for us and took us to our mini bus. We headed to the Nyang U market. I have to be honest with you and tell you that i experienced for about 15 minutes a culture shock. What happened when we arrived at the market was that as soon as we stepped out of the car, children gathered around us to sell us bracelets, Tanaka (which is the traditional sunscreen over there made out of Tanaka root). So early in the morning it was a shock as one was expecting to go around the market undisturbed and especially not followed around by lovely children. I think the mistake I made was that I had my hand bag and camera bag, so it must have given them the impression of a wealthy tourist ! I learned from it and the next touristy places we went I left my handbag in the car and just went around with my camera ! It worked 🙂

So let´s get back to the market, after 15 minutes we got used to the children following us around trying to sell us things, and by being nice and polite and respectful we made them understand that we did not yet want to buy anything. It worked out really well and we could enjoy the market buzzing with people, displaying lovely fruits, chillies as green as jade, mangoes as yellow as gold and tanaka roots as white as marble. It was just a spectacular experience, especially seeing the village people interacting with each other, in such peace.

After the market we headed to the Schwezagon pagoda which is one of the biggest in Bagan. There our guide told us the story of the Buddah. I will share it with you, just keep in mind that this is how our guide told us the story, and i do not wish anyone to think that it is the absolute truth, it is just a tale that I am sharing with you.

Prince Siddharta (which means the one whose wishes will be fulfilled) was 28 years old when one day he decided to go out of his palace. It was the first time he had left the surroundings of the Palace, and on his way he met 4 ornaments that would change his life.

The first ornament was an old man, the second a sick man, the third was death and the last ornament was a monk. Having been for 28 years in the Palace, the prince thought he was eternal and di not know the meaning of old age, death, sickness or religion. He came back to the palace with the thought of becoming a monk and find enlightenment.

He left his wife and children to follow the way of enlightenment sharing his teachings whilst he was travelling. Siddharta became Buddah in his 30s. He travelled throughout India, Burma, and many other regions to preach his teachings and converted many kings. Especially in the Bagan region in the 11th century, he visited to King and preached his teachings. The King was delighted and had many temples and pagodas constructed. There were over 4,000 pagodas in the Bagan region, but today only approx. 2,000 still remain.

After taking us around the pagoda and after this beautiful story, we headed for lunch and continued visiting Pagodas throughout the afternoon.

A funny episode is that for each temple you visit you have to be barefoot as it is holy ground, and my father was wearing shoes and socks, so you can imagine that after 20 temples he got tired of always getting his shoes and socks off. It was just funny to see how he moaned all the time and the locals finding it funny and laughing !

At the end of the evening and after dinner we headed back to the hotel and had a good night sleep before starting our third day in Myanmar and second day in Bagan with more pagodas to visit 🙂

Stay tuned for more !

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Visiting Myanmar – Day 1, Yangon

Dear all,
we are back from our trip around Asia ! We would like to share with you the discoveries we have made and share stories as well as photographs of our 8 days of travel across Myanmar.

We are going to start off with our arrival at Yangon (former Capital of Myanmar but today it is the administrative capital).

We traveled on 30th July 2012 from Singapore to Yangon and arrived in Yangon at around 4pm. The weather was rainy but it did not stop us enjoying and taking in the beautiful sights of the city.

What was interesting when we first arrived at the airport was the organisation and cleanliness of the airport. As we had ordered a visa on arrival, we headed to the visa counter and in less than 10 minutes had everything ready and could meet our guide at the baggage claim.

Once we had collected the luggage we made our way outside of the terminal to take the car and go drop our luggage to the hotel. Everyone was very friendly, smiling and very helpful. One thing one has to note though if one wants to keep in touch with one´s family ! Roaming is not working, during our entire stay we had no network coverage at all, so we leased a sim card at the airport to be able to call our family.

After dropping our luggage at the hotel we made our way to the Schwedagon pagoda which is the biggest in Yangon. We were lucky to have a dry spell to enjoy and take in the magnificence of the temple.

Our first impression when entering the Pagoda was that we were taken by a flow of positive energy coming from the holy ground on which the Pagoda was built, this lasted the entore time we were visiting the pagoda.
On some of the pictures you will notice that the monk is in the first row to pray, then you have the male disciples and at the back the women. This is due to the influence of Indian buddhism that is still anchored in the hearts of the Burmese, however men and women are regarded as equal, so this is just visible when people pray in the temples.

An interesting fact is that on top of the pagoda you can find rubies and diamonds, one of the biggest diamonds is on the tip of the pagoda. Some of you might think, how is it that such precious stones are still there and not have been stolen ! Well I imagine that this is due to the buddhist religion and the good virtue of the people of Myanmar.

We spent about 2 hours browsing around the pagoda and taking in the rituals and observing the people. We will have more stories on Buddhism in our next posts, so if you are interested please do not hesitate to visit our blog.

After our wonderful walk around Schwedagon Pagoda and taking a few pictures we went for a local dinner which was delicious (the curry in Myanmar is very subtle and delicate !) and then headed back to the hotel as we had to take an early flight to Bagan the next morning.

Bagan is the birthplace of Burmese buddhism, please stay tuned for interesting insights and stories !

 

Categories: Travel | 10 Comments

Wishing you all a nice holiday season

Dear all,
it is time for some of you to go on holidays and enjoy the good weather either in your country or abroad. It is also a great time to explore new countries and discover new cultures ! Remember to keep an open mind, talk with locals and analyze what differentiates you from your host culture !
We will also go away for a month and will be back on August,23rd. We will go on a discovery trip to Burma and promise to bring you back beautiful pictures and stories that we will of course, once back share with you !
We will also spend a few days in Singapore to update our data bank and update our information for our country specific training for Singapore.
We wish you all a wonderful holiday and look forward to writing again when we are back !!
Best regards

Be-a-chameleon

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